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Paden City HS closure draws community protests

Wetzel Chronicle

PADEN CITY, W.Va. — While Wetzel County Superintendent Cassie Porter explained that her decision to close Paden City High School and relocate its students for the 2024-25 school year was done with the safety of students, faculty and staff at the forefront, Paden City residents rallied at the Wetzel Board of Education office Wednesday morning to let administrators and board members know they wanted the school saved.

Around 45 people arrived at the board office at 8 a.m. Wednesday, holding signs in support of keeping PCHS open. Chants of “Paden City all the way, Wildcats are here to stay” and “Paden City forever, consolidation never” filled the air.

Porter announced the move in a memo to faculty and staff at PCHS, Magnolia High School and New Martinsville School on Tuesday evening. She cited health concerns for those who used the building, as it sits atop an EPA-designated superfund site and a plume of tetrachloroethylene, also known as PCE, was underneath it. Seventh and eighth grade students at PCHS will move to New Martinsville School, while ninth through 12th grade students will move to Magnolia High School.

“My goal for the last 31 years in public education in the state of West Virginia is always to do what is best for kids,” Porter said Wednesday. “So, in my heart, I cannot leave them down there eight hours a day, sitting on that chemical waste site.”

PCE has been a longtime issue in Paden City. For nearly a month last year, Paden City residents were unable to use their tap water at all due to unsafe levels of tetrachloroethylene, also known as PCE, in the water. The city has experienced high levels of PCE in its water more than once in recent years.

The source has been traced to a former dry cleaning location.

The city installed an air stripper to remove the chemical from the water before it enters the system of pipes that feeds people’s homes and businesses, but an electrical outage last August caused the air stripper to stop working and allowed too much of the chemical to get through, leading to the “do not consume” order.

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